Behavioral Therapies for Behavioral Problems in Children

NYU Langone’s Child Study Center offers behavioral therapies for children and adolescents with behavioral problems such as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder (CD). The type or types of therapy our specialists recommend are based on your child’s individual symptoms and the family’s needs.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) involves helping children and their parents understand and deal with the difficulties a child is experiencing. Therapists teach children and teens, as well as their parents, coping skills to help them manage difficult situations. Cognitive behavioral therapy has two components—the cognitive part, which helps a child change how he or she views a situation, and the behavioral part, which teaches a child to change how he or she reacts to it. 

This treatment is short-term; sessions are often once weekly and last 16 to 20 weeks. 

During a session, your child works with a therapist at the Child Study Center to learn how his or her thoughts, feelings, and behaviors influence one another. Adolescents can learn how to develop better social- and problem-solving skills to help them in relationships. Our clinicians can meet with children individually or within a group. They also offer family therapy, as well as parent coaching, to assist with problem solving and help decrease negativity in a child.

Parent–Child Interaction Training

Parent–child interaction training is a behavioral training program for parents of children ages two to seven who behave in disruptive ways. Therapists teach parents how to reinforce positive interactions with a young child, improve compliance with parental authority through establishing a strong bond, and reduce parenting-related stress. 

During these sessions, the parent wears a headset that enables a therapist to provide coaching and feedback on a parent’s reaction to a child’s behavior from behind a one-way mirror. Sessions, which last about an hour, are held weekly over the course of six to eight weeks, depending on the severity of the child’s symptoms and how well he or she responds to treatment.

Parent Management Training and Collaborative Training Sessions

Parents, older children, and teens can learn how to manage disruptive behaviors, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), ODD, and CD, with a variety of strategies.

Over the course of several sessions, the parents and child establish rules, responsibilities, privileges, and consequences in collaboration with a therapist. Behavioral therapists can help families who struggle with homework, routines, and the use of technology to come up with rules that are favorable to both parents and children. The therapists can help clarify expectations and ensure that family members meet the goals they have set for themselves. 

Parents of children with less pronounced behavioral issues may benefit from shorter, more targeted consultations.

Individual and Family Therapy

Individual and family therapy can help all family members cope with CD or ODD. One-on-one counseling can help a child learn how to manage his or her anger, address difficulties cooperating with rules and authority, and improve social skills.

Family therapy can address parent–child or sibling-child conflicts, as well as a child’s emotional and behavioral difficulties at home and at school. Therapy focuses on improving communication among family members. The psychologist encourages parents to practice skills during sessions, then apply them at home.

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